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Neal Stephenson Unveils His Digital Novel Platform 157

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the snow-crash-or-diamond-age-discuss dept.
pickens writes "The NY Times reports that Neal Stephenson's company Subutai has released the first installment of Stephenson's new novel, Mongoliad, about the Mongol invasion of Europe, using what it calls the PULP platform for creating digital novels. The core of the experience is still a text novel, but authors can add additional material like background articles, images, music, and video and there are also social features that allow readers to create their own profiles, earn badges for activity on the site or in the application, and interact with other readers. Stephenson says the material is an extension of what many science fiction and fantasy novels already offer. 'I can remember reading Dune for the first time, and I started by reading the glossary,' Stephenson says. 'Any book that had that kind of extra stuff in it was always hugely fascinating to me.' Jeremy Bornstein says Subutai is experimenting with a new model for publishing books and says the traditional model of paying for content may not hold up when the content can 'be canned and sent around to your friends for free,' but that people will hopefully still pay for content if 'the experience is so much more rich, so much more involving.'"
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Neal Stephenson Unveils His Digital Novel Platform

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  • No thanks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @10:26AM (#33436244)
    The price point is too high, the author's last few works have not been up to his previous standard, and leisure reading at my computer is simply not possible.
    • by Whalou (721698)
      10$ a year is too much? That's less than the cost of going to see one movie.
      • Re:No thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

        by emkyooess (1551693) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @10:53AM (#33436674)

        Buy access per item. Down with subscriptions!

      • by arth1 (260657)

        Let's see...
        I have around six hundred books, with an average purchase price of $20, and on average I keep a book for 10 years (most much longer, but some fall apart quickly or better editions come out), so my TCO is around $1200 per year.

        If I were to pay $10 per year per book, six hundred books would be $6000 per year.

        So yes, that's damn expensive.

    • It doesn't clarify if the price is for just the Mongoliad, or access to all books on the site. If it is a subscription based system, you would suspect you could read everything they have, at which point it's reasonable, especially if they regularly add additional content to books already written.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Zed Pobre (160035)

      Leisure reading on wireless-equipped tablets is becoming popular, however. I'm doing all of my reading nowadays either on a PDA or at my computer. The number of people reading on personal electronics is increasing quite nicely.

      Personally, though, I have difficulty with the notion of paying much for a book I can't pull out of my archive and re-read later, loan to a friend, fix typos in, or reorganize to my taste. This site looks like a 'read-only-while-subscribed' service. If they don't allow archiving t

      • Same here. I do all my reading on my PDA or PC these days, and I don't pay for "subscriptions" to static content.

        Came in hoping for DRM-free ebooks of some sort, found Xbox Live for Books, left disappointed.

    • by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @10:37AM (#33436396)

      If only we had a way of taking everyone's 60 lb 5 foot high towers and making them "on the go". "On the go" computing! Has a nice ring to it. One day soon (doesn't it always seem like the cool stuff is 5-10 years out) I think we'll have computers in smaller formats, ones dedicated for things such as this. I'm envisioning something in the form factor of a legal pad or something, or a large book if you need a keyboard. Oh well - at least I can get paged now and respond from the nearest convenient pay phone instead of always hovering around a phone for important calls. What'll they think of next!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        So you're saying I should buy a $500 iPad and pay $10/year to read a website novel that I might not even like?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lumpy (12016)

          or your $100 kindle

        • So you're saying I should buy a $500 iPad and pay $10/year to read a website novel that I might not even like?

          You don't need an iPad. You can get a kindle or nook for less than $200. A very large number of people are using laptops as their main computer these days. Or you could get a netbook. Hell, most cell phones have passable web browsers.

          And $10/year is nothing to complain about. Most paperbacks sell for roughly $7. Anything more than a few hundred pages of paper will cost you more than that.

          • $10/year isn't bad, except I re-read books intermittently. I'll read a book, shelve it for a few years, and re-read it when there's nothing new that peaks my interest. Under this model, I'm paying $10 essentially every time I read it. Also, Kindles can't handle rich media, and they're still overpriced (and the black on dark grey text looks horrible). Reading a web site on my iPhone is a masochistic endeavor. Call me a luddite if you must, but I prefer paper.
            • Re:No thanks (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Ephemeriis (315124) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @11:44AM (#33437460)

              $10/year isn't bad, except I re-read books intermittently. I'll read a book, shelve it for a few years, and re-read it when there's nothing new that peaks my interest. Under this model, I'm paying $10 essentially every time I read it. Also, Kindles can't handle rich media, and they're still overpriced (and the black on dark grey text looks horrible). Reading a web site on my iPhone is a masochistic endeavor. Call me a luddite if you must, but I prefer paper.

              I guess the question is what, exactly, are you paying for?

              If you just want to be able to re-read the book again, you can probably download it for future reference. It's a web page. Just grab the HTML (if there isn't an epub download offered).

              If you want the whole social media/supplemental content thing... Well, yes, you'd need to pay for that again. But that content will have changed. That's the whole point - to make the novel more dynamic and involved than a pile of printed pages. If you wanted to read the latest edition of a book you'd previously purchased, you'd probably have to pay for that again as well.

              No, the kindle can't handle rich media... But neither can paper. Again, what is it that you want?

              If you want the whole social media/supplemental content thing - use a computer. A netbook, a laptop, a desktop, whatever. If you want a printed paper analog, use a kindle or a nook or print the thing out.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Fred IV (587429)

                > That's the whole point - to make the novel more dynamic and involved than a pile of printed pages.

                I feel like this takes a lot out of the experience. My relationship with the novel is already a dynamic one because my understanding and appreciation of the work changes over time. Reading Orwell's 1984 as a junior high school student was an entirely different experience compared to reading it near middle age. Appreciating those differences was a big part of what made re-reading the book worthwhile.

                Well wr

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by badboy_tw2002 (524611)

                  It really depends on the author I think. If you look at Tolkien's work, the narrative almost takes a back seat to his unbelievably (and pretty much unmatched) detailed history, language, lore set forth for the universe. I think going through and re-reading LOTR via a setup like this would be a much different experience.

      • by MK_CSGuy (953563)

        Dude, we had those for quite some time now... didn't you see them COMPAQ Portables?
        They're IBM compatible and everything!

        • by gorzek (647352)

          I'm posting from one of those right now! All hail the glorious 4-inch monochrome screen!

    • by Hatta (162192)

      leisure reading at my computer is simply not possible.

      Why? What's wrong with your computer?

    • the author's last few works have not been up to his previous standard

      You mean he's done something different from his cyberpunk days? OH NOES!

      • It's not the setting that bugs me, it's the verbosity. The Baroque Cycle was a good read, but about 1500 pages too long. I couldn't even motivate myself to start on Anathem. His early works were actually a bit too terse, though.. Cryptonomicon was was the perfect balance in terms of wordiness.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Scrameustache (459504)

          It's not the setting that bugs me, it's the verbosity. The Baroque Cycle was a good read, but about 1500 pages too long.

          It wouldn't be baroque if he didn't overdo it :)

          The first few hundred pages of Anathem were on his website, I got to the end of that sample and went to buy the hardcover the next day. It's a brick, but it's a good brick. Like he said, he's a fan of Dune, and us Dune fans love our books big and wordy.

          • Funny.. I'm a Dune fan, but I'm not a fan of excessive wordiness.. Then again, some of the Dune books were hard to get through. Dune Messiah bored the crap out of me. God Emperor was probably my favorite, but it was hard to read at times. Everything his son wrote is awful.
            • Everything his son wrote is awful.

              I learned my lesson soon after Asimov's death: Beware new books bearing the name of a dead author.
              I got 60 pages in something before I realized this crap couldn't possibly have been written by Isaac, and realized I'd been reading some hack riding a dead man's coat tails.

          • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @11:44AM (#33437470)
            You know what they say, if it's not Baroque don't fix it.
        • by jgrahn (181062)

          It's not the setting that bugs me, it's the verbosity. The Baroque Cycle was a good read, but about 1500 pages too long. I couldn't even motivate myself to start on Anathem.

          That's his two most recent works. Not a good foundation for your earlier claim "the author's last few works have not been up to his previous standard" ...

          For what it's worth, I think you're unwittingly right about /Anathem/. Not a bad book, but it felt like a rehash of things he had said better before -- for example in /The Diamond Ag

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Well, the Baroque Cycle was 6 books in 3 volumes. I consider that more than a single work. Three at the least.
  • The question is, will this new platform allow the author to add an ending to a novel?

    As an author, Stephenson rides the reader hard and puts them away wet, so to speak. It'd be nice if he'd address that first.

    • Ananthem and the Baroque cycle both had extensive endings that seemed to tie up most of the loose ends. What was your problem there?

    • by tehcyder (746570)
      I thought he addressed that whole thing very well and very wittily in Anathem.
      • I'll admit I didn't read Anathem yet, and my criticism does not properly include it.

        If he's turned a corner I'll pick it up. I've liked his earlier books right about up until the point that literary blue balls set in.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Scrameustache (459504)

      The question is, will this new platform allow the author to add an ending to a novel?

      As an author, Stephenson rides the reader hard and puts them away wet, so to speak. It'd be nice if he'd address that first.

      Your point is insightful and all, his really work did stop abruptly rather than end properly, but to be fair: he's been getting better, making progress. Heck, Anathem even had a epilogue! I think somehow the thousands and thousands of complaints wore him down.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499)
      The question is, will this new platform allow the author to add an ending to a novel?

      No, the real question (other than, "have you actually read any of his recent stuff?") is: will this lame arm-chair-lit-crit-groupthink meme itself ever find an ending?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dusty101 (765661)

        At this point, I don't actually care any more. I gave up on him at the point in "Quicksilver" when he rambled on at length about Parisian horse trading markets. I found it long, tedious, and far too reminiscent of the scene in the movie "Wonder Boys", in which the student, Hannah, critiques the professor's unending work-in-progress book:

        "And even though you're book is really beautiful, I mean, amazingly beautiful, it's... it's at times... it's... very detailed. You know, with the genealogies of everyone's h

        • I gave up on him at the point in "Quicksilver" when he rambled on at length about Parisian horse trading markets.

          You mean the super important plot point about the trade of very unique-looking Arabian horses for a certain extraordinary slave girl by a French nobleman? You gave up at that point? Your loss.

  • Most eBook/eZine/eManga software is severely lacking in ease of use and functionality, and I am unable to find anything on when they are going to release this system to the public. Anyone know when the general public will be able to try our hands at creating media rich novels?

    HEX

    • Most eBook/eZine/eManga software is severely lacking in ease of use and functionality

      By design. The point of these wares is to remove your ability to do things with the material that the publisher doesn't want you to do.

  • Does anyone seriously think the answer to the 'content can be had for free, so people have it for free' problem is ... more content? Really?
    • Does anyone seriously think the answer to the 'content can be had for free, so people have it for free' problem is ... more content? Really?

      The answer is: Dynamic content. Content that doesn't stay the same from one week to the next, that way you can't just .zip it, you won't have it all.

      I think it's an interesting idea, we'll see if it works.

  • So he's publishing PULP fiction?
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @10:48AM (#33436588) Homepage

    In 2015, maybe he'll figure out that you give the bits away free - heck, you encourage fans to share them - and make your money from tangibles: posters, shirts and plushies.

    If you're an author whose work isn't easily translatable to posters, shirts and plushies, well, sucks to be you, but railing about it isn't going to put the genie back in the bottle. Either add some sparkly emo vampires, or get a day job lined up. That's the way it's going to go down.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      In 2015, maybe he'll figure out that you give the bits away free - heck, you encourage fans to share them - and make your money from tangibles: posters, shirts and plushies.

      Welcome to the world of McCulture. I hope you morons enjoy it.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Agreed! That damned printing press will destroy writers!

      What? Xerox makes a machine that COPIES paper? THAT WILL DESTROY THE INDUSTRY!

      The publishers have been screaming that the sky is falling for 100+ years. You really should ignore them and everyone that believes their tripe.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Good point. Being able to make an unlimited number of flawless copies of any number of works for essentially no cost or effort all, without even having to shift your arse off of the sofa is exactly like standing over a hot photocopier for hours, feeding it coins in order to produce one crappy facsimile of one book. You've really helped to put the problem in perspective!
  • by AkiraRoberts (1097025) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @10:51AM (#33436646) Homepage
    Or perhaps we aren't. I'm still not sure how I feel about this. It is one thing to have a book with appendices and glossaries and indexes and illustrations. But this thing seems to be something else entirely and I don't know if I am really interested in this. I like open ended stories as much as the next wannabe post-modernist, but a novel that you subscribe to? Where you are interacting with other readers in a social media-esque way? Where the thing never really ends?

    Still trying to decide how I feel. I suppose the thing is, while I like things that are unfinished, sprawling and messy (which is why I've never really given a damn about Stephenson's inability to write a coherent ending), I'm still attached to the notion of the messiness being constrained between the covers of a book, that I can close with a happy sigh and say, "Damn, that was good." That might be weirdly old fashioned. Stephenson may be getting at something here and, 100 years from now, this is what "novels" will look like. But I suspect that if that is the case, we may stop calling them novels.
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @10:52AM (#33436650)

    Stephenson's new novel, Mongoliad, about the Mongol invasion of Europe

    Mongoliad

    Book 1 - General Subutai Gets Dressed For Battle
    Book 2 - General Subutai Has Breakfast

    Book 3 is still being planned, but will probably involve Subutai mounting his horse and riding out of camp.

    • The thing is, I don't mind all the long windedness. I personally think he's a good enough writer that he can be long winded and still be, by and large, entertaining. What I'm not super excited about is him being long winded in a non-text media. Does anybody remember that music video thing that accompanied (or prefaced, I don't recall which) Anathem? It was kind of a bit crap.
      • I'm with AkiraRoberts - I think Stephenson writes beautifully and the writing by its very nature is pleasurable to read. It doesn't matter to me what he writes about; I'll read it.

        That said, I also saw the Anathem music video and also thought it was crap.

        Still, I'm super excited about Mongoliad.

        My perspective as a content creator is probably biased, but I'm happy to subscribe to this content and I believe it is probably the future of media...

    • by adavies42 (746183)

      are you sure you're not confusing him with robert jordan?

  • If I'm reading a book, it's because I WANT to be alone with the book and my imagination. The only communication I'm interested in is with the author's words.

    We don't need, and we don't want, yet another "social platform."

    • I have a sinking suspicion that most of the social interaction will be forums posts like "which anime character is General Subutai most like???"
    • If I'm reading a book, it's because I WANT to be alone with the book and my imagination. The only communication I'm interested in is with the author's words.

      We don't need, and we don't want, yet another "social platform."

      No, loners don't need or want a social platform, but publishers are looking at the shipments of cash being delivered 24/7 to Blizzard, and they want some.

    • by Infonaut (96956)
      Fair enough, but how does the existence of a social platform used by other readers keep you from enjoying solitary book-reading?
      • by tomhudson (43916)
        Who said it would? Not me, because I won't be using it. But I suspect a lot of readers are going to find the interruption of their focus to take away from the experience.
        • Galston crept through the dark halls of Heinlich manor, his footsteps whispers against the pine-beam floors. Two guards had almost spotted him within the space of an hour; he was getting old, getting clumsy. Down the corridor, the warm bath of an oil lantern flickered against carved stone walls. He blinked. It was moving toward him. Heavy boots hit the floor, where had they come from? Deftly, he slid across the hallway to the unmarked wooden door and tried lifting the handle. Locked. He tried the next one.
  • Be not!

    -or-

    It turns out Kublai really was a god!

    (Sorry, the -iad ending to the title puts me in mind of rather more recent fiction than the [I assume] intended allusion)

  • He will be surprised to discover that the primary users of his technology will use it for a word-by-word critique of his novel. It's easier to tear down than it is to build.

  • by c0d3g33k (102699) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @11:09AM (#33436902)

    the traditional model of paying for content may not hold up when the content can "be canned and sent around to your friends for free," but that people will hopefully still pay for content if "the experience is so much more rich, so much more involving."

    The flaw is that the 'extra' content that makes 'the experience so much more rich, so much more involving' can also be 'cannned and sent around to your friends for free'. In principle this is no different from the 'shareware' model for software and games that flourished in the early 90s. Give folks a little bit of the experience and hope they pay for the full monty. Ok, fine, but unless the nature of the extra stuff is sufficiently different from the original, it suffers from the same weaknesses. People can share a glossary and such stuff just as easily. Incrementally withholding content of essentially the same nature doesn't qualify as a long term sustainable model. The extra stuff needs to be something different and much better. This might be economically infeasible, but having a small troupe of actors under contract to the author/publisher stop by your house for a fee and engage in a personalized enactment of a crucial part of the story might work as entertainment worth paying for. If the author is clever enough, this could be customized to each reader/group so it couldn't be recorded and distributed in kind as mentioned above. So okay, that wouldn't work, probably, but with a little imagination, someone could come up with something that would.

    IMHO, this kind of content delivery where the experience is solely controlled and managed by the 'rights holders' is not sufficient any longer. That ship has sailed and easy duplication plus the internet has blown that model out of the water. They should be thinking more along the lines of licensed creation of user created content where they exert less control but help make the 'fanfic' experience 'so much more rich, so much more involving'. Instead of Foxing fan driven efforts, what if content providers licensed copyrighted materials and such to interested fans for a reasonable fee? instead of being limited to putting together a crappy, budget limited fan film on your own dime and living in fear of the lawyers, what if you could buy "authentic" set pieces and props to make your fan driven effort that much more real? What if you could legitimately charge for viewings of your film/play to recoup the costs plus a franchise-like kickback to the original 'rights holder'? And so on.

    It seems to me that engaging the fans (or more precisely, non-professional creators) and helping them enjoy your ideas as much as possible, including helping them with stuff that they find costly or uninteresting (like recreating 'authentic props') might be a better approach than just controlling everything as much as possible and counting on the model of "getting enough asses in the seats" at the local theater or sofa.

    I don't know. Maybe this wouldn't work, but from what i can see, there is plenty of energy out there for riffing on existing stuff (when people lack the imagination or time/energy to create from scratch) that remains untapped. Maybe it's time to explore that a bit more. Set loose the lawyers on me for my lovingly crafted Tom Bombadil addition to the LOTR films and I will hate you forever. Give me help and a discount from WETA for props and I may love you all the more and keep doing it longer.

    Just sayin.

  • by ideonexus (1257332) * on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @11:14AM (#33436958) Homepage Journal

    So it's a serialized novel, like Dicken's Great Expectations or Stephen King's Green Mile, where you get readers to subscribe for a year, and then get more money from them when you publish the finalized ebook or hardcopy. I'm sure this format could work and make money, but the fact that the NYT's ran this article, with a link to the website, which doesn't yet have a "Subscribe" option yet marks a sorely missed opportunity.

    I'll be interested in seeing how this turns out. As many commenters have noted, it's nothing new, and reading for long stretches on a desktop, laptop, iPad, or cell phone is uncomfortable. I tried to write a novel using MediaWiki and allowing user contributions, but the online format drove people away. Illustrations might make it more appealing, but user contributions could quickly make it go the way of Oort-Cloud [oort-cloud.org], lots of people posting mediocre content and nobody reading any of it.

  • Science fiction sales must be really plummeting, since all the authors want to leave the genre as soon as possible. They write a few scifi novels and then switch to fantasy, or, in Stephenson's case, historical fiction. People read those too, of course, but it's an entirely different audience. We techies are not interested in the past; we are interested in the future. We might want to examine history for forgotten ideas that might be helpful in the future, but we certainly don't want to live there! No horse

    • Stephenson has argued that techies SHOULD be interested in the past. You're welcome to disagree, but he's not abandoning you. I thought the history of science and technology built into his Baroque Cycle was interesting, and really the only redeeming feature of that very long book.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hex0D (1890162)
      I have a suspicion you haven't actually read The Baroque Cycle. To me it seemed all about the idea that only rational thinking and actual science (not 'alchemy') can move civilization forward. It painted a picture of the 17th/18th century as an interesting place, but not a pleasant one. Especially if you have bladder stones. *shudder*

      And what's with the 'we'? Are techies now some sort of homogeneous hive mind that are all interested or not in the exact same thing?

    • by Coriolis (110923)
      Everyone's scared of the Singularity. Fantasy is easier.
    • by slyborg (524607)

      >but it's an entirely different audience

      A bigger audience. This is Stephenson's day job.

      I loved the guy's early work, which was snarky and fresh (if somewhat weak on actual concluding), but the 'historical fiction' genre bores me. Also, the "more is more" aesthetic he has pursued the last ~10 years doesn't
      really work for me, I don't have the time to absorb the sheer volume of his awesomeness that Stephenson insists you ingest along with the novel....

    • by IICV (652597) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @02:11PM (#33439530)

      Science fiction sales must be really plummeting, since all the authors want to leave the genre as soon as possible. They write a few scifi novels and then switch to fantasy, or, in Stephenson's case, historical fiction.

      I'm guessing you're unacquainted with Alastair Reynolds [wikipedia.org], then, or pretty much any other author who writes "hard" science fiction.

      And the thing is, really, most "science fiction" authors aren't really writing science fiction. William Gibson, for instance, wrote the original Neuromancer manuscripts on a typewriter - he's about as technical as any other English major, and it really shows even in Neuromancer. Neil Stephenson, despite having written a couple of pretty good sciencey fiction novels, isn't really into it - he's much more of a nerd who does a bunch of research into something and then writes a story about it, as can be seen even in Snow Crash (ancient Sumeria), Cryptonomicon (the history of cryptography), Anathem (the history of logic and philosophy) and Diamond Age (the fundamentals of computation). Of course he's going to go off and write something else - he's not really interested in writing about science fiction, he seems to be far more interested in doing historical research and writing a story about it. It was basically a coincidence that he became known as a science fiction writer.

      If you look at the actual hard SF authors, on the other hand, they've been quietly pumping novels out since the genre was invented. Greg Egan's been consistently publishing hard SF, as have Stephen Baxter, Vernor Vinge, Greg Bear and Charles Stross. Heck, Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon novels and Iain M. Banks's books (when he publishes like that) probably count too, though they're not really so much science fiction as they are fantasy in a sciencey setting.

      Look: if you can't find authors who consistently publish good science fiction novels, you're just not looking in the right places.

  • I thought Apple's ePub let you do this too. Not to slight Stephenson's work, the concept seems well established. So, there is probably a market for it, but it does not need to replace books or movies or even PowerPoint to succeed.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by slyrat (1143997)

      I thought Apple's ePub let you do this too. Not to slight Stephenson's work, the concept seems well established. So, there is probably a market for it, but it does not need to replace books or movies or even PowerPoint to succeed.

      I'm afraid that ePub [wikipedia.org] is not something Apple came up with. Otherwise, yes I am hoping that it becomes the more universal way books are published when they are electronic. That way you really are buying the book rather than the book for a particular device.

    • Execution is everything, as Apple has itself demonstrated many times.

      Also, EPUB is not an Apple product. It's an open standard that Apple has adopted somewhat grudgingly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPUB [wikipedia.org]

  • "there are also social features that allow readers to create their own profiles, earn badges for activity on the site or in the application, and interact with other readers"

    It's a game platform. Ok, how much is the subscription?

  • "I can remember reading Dune for the first time, and I started by reading the glossary," Stephenson say. "Any book that had that kind of extra stuff in it was always hugely fascinating to me."

    I remember reading The Hobbit, then the Ring trilogy, and then the Silmarillion. With the History of Middle-Earth, Tolkien pretty much succeeded in writing more about the books than the books themselves, his son's contributions included.

    The Dune series is deserving of being made into movies too, but it's not necessary

  • "I can remember reading Dune for the first time, and I started by reading the glossary," Stephenson say. "Any book that had that kind of extra stuff in it was always hugely fascinating to me."

    So fascinating, in fact, that he decided to write glossaries and call them novels. "Glossaries aren't tied up with complications like plots, and I can make clever Lucas-esque puns with characters names! Get it? Low-key? Loki? Ahh, I kill me."

  • "I am Subotai! Thief and archer! I am Hyrkanian . . . the great order of Kerlait!"

    "So what are you doing here?"

    "Dinner for wolves."

    [both laugh]

  • Interesting. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @12:07PM (#33437848)

    It's a neat idea, although this particular implementation might not be ideal. I tend to start digging around for more information on the web regarding novels I've gotten particularly interested in. This might include background information, interpretations or artwork. However, I can't say I'd ever pay for this and I'm not interested in a social component at all. I'm wouldn't be compelled to follow someone and read their thoughts on novels I haven't read simply because I enjoyed what they had to say about this one.

    I suppose a community like this would allow for users to add to the expanded universe. While it's interesting it's something I've never gotten into. I'd rather go to the source, the original creator. I find too much inconsistency, too many elements disruptive to canon and it tends to be too much to absorb. And I think writing, for a lot of people, is a personal thing. I've got my own vision of how things are, what should or shouldn't happen. If I were to add to a universe I've created I'd want it to come from me. I suppose the point at which I decided I was done with that universe then it would no longer be a problem.

    For years I've had the idea of releasing novels, comics, etc in episodic form and allowing readers to guide the story. Basically at certain points they could vote on a few possible outcomes. It might make for an engaging experience, but it wont work if the author has a particular story they want to tell or an idea they want to convey.

    Of course, a big problem is that too many people seem to think everything they find on the internet should be free. This stuff takes a lot of time and effort, not to mention the expense of having this stuff available online somewhere. There are creative ways to entice people. But if all the effort went into writing the book, why should I be expected to generate income from something like t-shirts or signed artwork? It would be a travesty is writers were forced into writing Harry Potter or Twilight style novels in order to be able to be able to make money. The sci-fi section of bookstores already seems to be shrinking, slowly absorbed by manga and bad mystery novels.

  • There are two kinds of people in the world: people who have read The Silmarillion, and people who started reading it, got bored, and did something else. Neal Stephenson is firmly in the former camp, he is a self-professed geek who loves to "geek out." I have a friend who does not consider himself to have finished a Final Fantasy game until he has killed every monster, collected everything that can be collected, maxed out every character, and unlocked every achievement. (Or whatever they do in FF, it's been
  • It's a certainly a bit of a stretch to claim that publishing a novel in serial installments is a new idea.

    ("But this is on... THE INTERNET!")

    BUT I'm a huge Stephenson fan, so I'm looking forward to reading this whether I end up subscribing or buying the book after the fact.

  • Didn't Tad Williams already do the book subscription thing with Shadowmarch? I remember that, and didn't find it terribly successful. That said, I think if there's any author out there who can come up with an 'enhanced book' and execute it well, Neal Stephenson is the guy. The FAQ explicitly states that you get to keep all the content you already bought (DRM free, I should add!) so I plunked my $10 down, to support the experiment, and we'll see how it goes.

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